Cruise Lines Continue to Ignore Need for Trained Lifeguards – Part 2

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Swim at your own riskIn Part 1 of our blog, our cruise lawyers discussed the ever-growing, yet ever-ignored need for trained lifeguards onboard cruise ships. We talked about how an Orlando-based news station reported on the staggering number of children who have fallen prey to drowning and near-drowning accidents onboard cruise ships, including Qwentyn Hunter, a six-year-old boy who died after drowning in a Carnival Cruise Line pool last year.

Qwentyn was one of four children who died last year after drowning in cruise ship pools. But despite these horrific statistics – and truth be told just one child drowning death is appalling enough – most cruise lines do not employ lifeguards to keep watch over passengers and prevent these perilous situations.

When confronted with the question of why lifeguards aren’t employed on ships, many cruise offer a rebuttal. Some might argue that it’s up to the parents to watch for their children’s wellbeing, while others insist that having sporadic and inconspicuous signs near the pool areas warning passengers to “swim at their own risk” is more than adequate contribution on their part to maintain onboard safety. But the fact of the matter is that children aren’t the only ones who can suffer a drowning or near-drowning accident while on a cruise vacation; adults can be victims as well.

Last year, our firm reported on the death of 1985 MOVE bombing survivor Michael Ward , better known as “Birdie Africa”. Ward, a 41-year-old man, died after drowning in a Carnival Cruise ship pool last September. Though not many details were revealed pertaining to the circumstances of the accident, this terrible drowning goes to show that just about anyone can fall victim to a drowning onboard a cruise ship.

So why exactly is it that cruise lines are so adamant about not hiring lifeguards? Seeing as how cruise ships are getting larger, thus increasing passenger carrying capacity, the need for trained lifeguards is at an all-time high. But after reviewing countless statistics that would favor the hiring of lifeguards, we can only conclude that one particular reason trumps all the good ones – money.

Trained lifeguards are not going to accept minimum wage. Employing them will require cruise lines money, and not just for their salaries. Cruise lines will also have to pay for expenses related to their room and board, food, health, etc. As we’ve seen in the past, it is much more likely that a cruise line will spend millions of dollars on money-making values, such as improving onboard entertainment or restaurant choices, than investing a fraction of that cost on safety measures.

But while it should be mandatory for cruise lines to hire lifeguards, let’s say, hypothetically, that this isn’t possible for some odd reason. Even if lifeguards could not be hired, there are still several other measures cruise lines can take to prevent drowning accidents as much as possible.

For example, cruise lines can keep pools and hot tubs covered with a net during low traffic times so passengers are unable to use the facilities. When the net is uncovered, there should be several crew members – at least security guards – keeping watch over passengers and ready to assist if tragedy strikes.

Cruise lines can also improve safety training for existing crew members and require – at the minimum – that all crew members be fully able to perform CPR. At least this way, if a drowning accident is taking place, any crew member will be able to perform emergency CPR and possibly revive the victim.

The faster a drowning victim is pulled out of the water, the higher their chances of survival. These are just obvious facts that can be corroborated by any maritime authority, yet, despite these alternatives, cruise lines still appear to ignore the need for safety enhancements.

Passengers place their lives in the hands of cruise operators expecting them to have their best interest in mind. There is simply no excuse for cruise lines not to have an ample number of aptly trained crew members on deck monitoring pools and hot tubs at all times. How many more passengers need to suffer before safety policies are improved? Isn’t the fact that four children died last year in drowning accidents enough to merit a complete industry-wide safety enhancement project?

We hope the message for safety improvement rings loud and clear in the cruise industry. The world seems to be running out of ways to show major cruise lines that accidents are happening at an increasing rate and usually are the result of a cruise line’s negligence in providing adequate onboard safety. Perhaps a world-wide boycott of cruise vacations is in order? Who knows? But it is blatantly obvious that civilians and maritime authorities are going to need to take drastic measures in order for cruise lines to truly get the message.